When you choose not to decide, you still have made a choice (an encore post)

I wrote the following post four years ago. It remains relevant today. Make a stand, march or picket, contact your leaders, and vote.

If you have followed this blog for any length of time, you will know that I love cleverly worded song lyrics. The above title comes from an unexpected source (if you don’t follow the band) – a song called “Free will” by the rock band “Rush.” I find this lyric, penned by drummer Neil Peart, compelling as it speaks to people who choose to do nothing in the face of obvious problems. Martin Luther King saved some of his criticism for the silent people who did not condemn Jim Crow actions.

People choose not to vote because they do not like the choices. But, “none of the above” is not an option and one candidate tends to be worse or represents worse. If you did not vote because you did not think Brexit or Trump would win, you water down your right to protest. And, I would add there are seven white supremacists running for office, empowered by a US President who won’t condemn racist actions and has made racist statements. So, your vote does matter.

If you witness a daily assault on civil rights, women’s rights, truth, media, science, allies and environment and don’t speak up, then you condone the actions as acceptable.

– It is not OK for leaders to lie multiple times a day.

– It is not OK to have governmental websites delete data that run afoul of unsubstantiated opinions by leaders.

– It is not OK to demean people because they dare criticize a leader’s point of view.

– It is not OK to promote violence toward these same people, as some people act on these suggestions and the assaulters and/ or the targets get hurt or go to jail.

– It is not OK to demonize groups of people or exaggerate causes of problems, as it is hard enough to solve real problems with real data.

– It is not OK to ignore real problems or have faux efforts to address them. Gun deaths, poverty, health care access and costs, infrastructure deterioration, increasing debt, environmental degradation, climate change, etc. are real problems.

Please do not remain silent. Speak up. Call or email your representatives. Attend marches and protests. Share diplomatically your opinion, but listen to theirs. Find a way to get your opinion heard and heeded. Calling someone a name is not the way to be heard.

The other day as I was looking for a new battery for my cordless mower, a store clerk and I chatted about the need to move toward renewable energy. While he supported the eventual move, he said renewable energy is “seven times” the cost of fossil fuel energy. I responded and said that is a ten-year old argument. The costs are now more on par. In fact, there is a city in Texas who chose to be 100% renewable energy powered as its CPA mayor said financially it is a better deal. Did he hear me? I don’t know, but he would not have  if I had not listened to his argument and responded.

Do not follow the words of the song lyric. Choose to decide.

Mental health issues rise for adolescents, teens and young adults

A key article for all to see appeared in The Charlotte Observer yesterday called “Mental health crises on the rise among US teenagers. What parents can watch for” by Laura Brache. Here are the first couple of sections, with a link below.

“’A national emergency.’

That’s what the American Academy of Pediatrics calls a recent increase in mental health crises among children and teens in the United States. ‘It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced in doing this for 20 years,’ said Gary Maslow, a child and adolescent psychologist at Duke University. Maslow joined fellow Duke pediatric psychologist Nathan Copeland and professor Sharika Hill in a virtual discussion Wednesday to help parents and caregivers help children and teens facing anxiety, depression, self-harm and suicidal thoughts.

YOUTH SUICIDE IN 2019

More kids died by suicide in 2019 ‘than at any point in American history,’ said Copeland. In fact, suicide was the second leading cause of death among youth that year. ‘Among the 10 to 24 age group, suicide accounted for nearly 25% of all death among kids,’ he said. ‘And among … individuals 15 to 24, suicide accounted for more deaths than the next seven core medical causes combined.’ Those causes include accidents, congenital issues, homicide, and cancer, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. ‘The worst outcome is children dying by suicide,’ Maslow said. “That is happening, but that is the tip of the iceberg.” Just as in many facets of health care, Black youth were among the most impacted by suicide in 2019. ‘Where we were seeing things like systemic racism and how it was impacting Black youth, we were seeing that [suicide] rate increase faster for Black youth than for any other demographic,’ Copeland said. In Durham, Maslow added, Hispanic youth are also ‘presenting at much higher rates that we’ve seen before.’

PEDIATRIC MENTAL ILLNESS IS COMMON

Nearly 1 in 5 youth will experience pediatric mental illness during their childhood, Copeland said. People in this group often go undiagnosed and untreated for years, he said. It can take five to 11 years for a child to get treatment for mental health and behavioral issues from the moment they start experiencing symptoms. ‘For a kid that’s a significant 11 years,’ he said. ‘That’s a long period of time that a kid has been experiencing mental illness.’ What’s more, only 20% of youth experiencing mental illness end up receiving the potentially life-saving care that they need. Academic pressure and school in general also fuel “peer victimization” and bullying, Copeland said. ‘In Durham, what we frequently see or what we have seen is that when school starts, compared to when kids are on break, there is a 60% increase in rates of pediatric mental health emergency department visits,’ he said. Copeland said, before the pandemic, ‘mental illness was the most common cause of drop out in school of any disability group.’”

I encourage you to read the full article via the link below. And, note this is before the pandemic made the situation even worse. This is a key reason why guns need to be better governed and locked away. Homes with guns have a higher rate of suicide than homes without one. One impulsive decision and it is over.

There should be less stigma to getting help. We all may need it at some point.

Read more at: https://www.charlotteobserver.com/health-wellness/article263427108.html#storylink=cpy

Wednesday wanderings in early July

Time for a walkabout, but I better get out in the morning before the heat bakes in. As I wander, here are a few miscellaneous wandering thoughts.

  • Having a mass shooting on Independence Day is apropos is it not? Nothing says America like folks being gunned down when they don’t expect it. Not to belabor the point, but other multiple victim shootings occurred this week in the US.
  • Voting matters. If people are upset with a hyper-partisan Supreme Court, vote for people who won’t put such people on the court. If people are worried that the previous president pulled us out of the Paris Climate Change accord, then don’t vote for people like that. If people are upset that the party of the former president wants to do away with the ACA, don’t vote for people like that.
  • Although, I would not vote for him giving his politics, the former football star Hershel Walker once responded to a reporter’s question on why he did not celebrate touchdowns in the endzone. He said he wanted to act like he has been there before. I think of this when I see too many elected officials dishonor the offices they hold by lying and denigrating people. Regardless of politics, these officials owe us the truth. The truth matters. Being collaborative matters.
  • On this last point, elected officials do not have to swap spit. Just get along enough to work together to solve problems. The Oakland Athletics baseball team won three straight championships in the early 1970s. Yet, they fought like cats and dogs. But, when they got on the field, they were like an orchestra. Our various legislatures and assemblies could learn a lesson from these guys.
  • Finally, I say this often, but it needs to be said often. If someone uses a label or name calls, that is a lazy person’s argument. They want people to hear the label and just ignore what the critics are saying. A former president has lasted this long in the public eye for his ability to get people to ignore his many critics. His ability to purposefully distract people away from bad press or misstatement is his greatest skill. It is akin to him faking a throw of a bone in one direction watching the dog chase something that is not there.

If someone uses a label or name calls as argument, ask more questions. If someone says they are going to take away rights, tear up deals, or give advantage to corporations to pollute with impunity, believe them and vote for another person. Democracy requires hard work. We have to do our homework. Otherwise, the autocratic tendencies in leaders wanting power will surface more. And, do not let anyone tell you that is a good thing.

Strong suggestion for Democrats

I have a strong suggestion for Democrats who are not happy with the Roe v Wade verdict, watered down gun governance and restrictions on civil rights and are fearful of climate change inaction, environmental degradation and health care attacks, they need to vote. Know the rules that have been altered to keep you from voting and get out and vote. You could throw a few million people marches to get their attention as well.

There is a canary in the coal mine that is saying more voters are switching to the GOP (I read 1+ million), including the suburban educated women voters. To me, this tells me that people are listening to messaging coming out of more conservative channels that rakes Dems over the coals. I am not saying that messaging is correct, but people are listening to it.

Dems better crystalize key talking points that will appeal to all Americans and hammer them home. If they appeal to only progressive Dems, they will need to look up what happened to George McGovern in 1972. Watergate was in part related to Nixon wanting to run against McGovern and not Edmund Muskie. He knew he could beat McGovern but knew Muskie would be a tougher challenge. He ran against McGovern and won 49 states to 1.

Note, I am not saying progressive ideas are not good, but they need to be ideas that are saleable to all Americans and not offensive because of poor word choice. For example, “Defund the police” may have not meant exactly what it said, but the term was a gift to Republicans. My old party is bereft of good ideas in my view which is one reason conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the GOP is in “decay.” But, the GOP spin doctors do a better job, aided and abetted by Fox News, QAnon, and Infowars, et al, to focus on over-exaggerated issues where a label can be slapped on it and a bumper sticker created.

And, Dems please note, they are winning at this and expect to take the House and Senate majority. I have said before we need a viable Republican party, but this is not it. The best way to rid the country of this extreme party is not to vote for them.

Monday, Monday – a few this and that(s)

Since our friend Jill recently posted “California Dreaming” by the Mamas and Papas, let me use the title of another one of their songs to begin the week. Here are few items to chew on for the week:

  • Since January 6, 2021, I have felt the political career of the former president is over. But, I felt it would take some time for the Republican party to figure that out. To be honest, it has taken a little longer, but that is due to active sycophants who are scared to tell the MAGA crowd the truth.
  • The great unraveling is occurring with donors getting tired of the “sh** show” as one referred to Trump’s antics and an increasing number of conservative icons speaking out. The latest is Brian Kilmeade, who is one of hosts on Fox and Friends. His criticism speaks volumes as he has fawned over Trump for years.
  • I also heard that Trump is riveted to the hearings and is in furor with no one there to defend the indefensible – that Trump betrayed his country. He is blaming everyone else but the guy watching the TV from his home. The fact he is not accountable for his own actions has long been a weakness of the former president, but we have to remember his mentor, attorney Roy Cohn told him to “never apologize and to sue everyone” per his biographers.
  • I do think the odds-on favorite to the GOP nomination in 2024 is Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida. As an independent, this troubles me as I see a more effective mini-Trump in DeSantis who bullies people into acquiescence. The GOP could do much better with ex-govenors Mitch Daniels or John Kasich, but they do not stand a chance in hell, given they are more moderate and collaborative. Like Trump, the truth is a foreign currency to DeSantis, even before becoming governor.
  • SCOTUS has made two horrible rulings the past ten days to appease two different crowds of people. Roe v. Wade being changed gets the most notoriety. They took a fifty-year-old law that had been reduced to a workable framework and decided to gut it. So, now we will have a confederation of state laws. What is interesting to me, there were enough votes in Congress to pass some continuation of Roe v. Wade and may still be there, but it will require very narrow focus and not an expanded one. I think once Republicans realize this ruling is not a winner, some may want to come to the table, but that window for change may have closed.
  • The second ruling allowed people to more openly carry a gun overturning a New York law. This occurred a few days before Congress passed some watered governance changes, but at least they did do something. The SCOTUS ruling concerns me as mixing testosterone, alcohol and a firearms means more gun deaths. Mixing depression and gun access means more suicides. To be frank, people carrying guns does not make me feel safer given the temperature of too many in our country. People wound too tight might shoot first and talk second.
  • As for shootings, the beat goes on. More occurred yesterday. Plus, the US has exported mass shootings to other civilized countries, Norway being the most recent example. Given our fascination with guns and freedoms to use them, I truly don’t think we will ever solve this problem unless we make more demonstrative changes. I am glad something was done, but it was not near enough. But, it is a start. Sadly, the SCOTUS ruling may erase the chalk on the board where the new law is written.

That is all for now. Let me know your thoughts.

Note to Senators and Congressman – please act on our gun death problem

After watching the President Biden’s very good speech last night asking for our support in addressing our gun death problem, I posted the following short statement on the websites for my two Republican Senators (Burr and Tillis) and Senate Minority leader McConnell. I also posted it on my Republican Congressman’s website.

I watched the President’s impassioned speech on doing something at long last to deal with our gun death problem in the US. We have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two wealthiest nations COMBINED. That is not an enviable standing. I am pleading with you to think like a parent and grandparent and do something. There are measures which are supported by the majority of gun owners that we can build from. If you and Congress fail to finally do something, it will be a disservice to Americans. Please act.

I have posted similar messages over the years, but to no avail. Maybe, just maybe, Americans have had enough with their elected officials, and can squeeze out some leadership from these folks beholden to the NRA. Sadly, these folks have not seemed to care that the majority of gun owners are OK with several changes. We need to make them care.

Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand Prime Minister is a leader on gun control

In a PBS Newshour story produced by Aamer Madhani called “Biden discusses gun control with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern,” it was good to see the success of the New Zealand leader on gun control get more press. Here are a few of the initial paragraphs which give you the gist of the discussion:

“WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden praised New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern on Tuesday for her success in curbing domestic extremism and guns as he tries to persuade a reluctant Congress to tighten gun laws in the aftermath of horrific mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas and Buffalo, New York.

The long-planned talks between Biden and Ardern were to center on trade, climate and security in the Indo-Pacific, but the two leaders’ starkly different experiences in pushing for gun control loomed large in the conversation.

Ardern successfully won passage of gun control measures in her country after a white supremacist gunman killed 51 Muslim worshippers at two Christchurch mosques in 2019. Less than a month later all but one of the country’s 120 lawmakers voted in favor of banning military-style semiautomatic weapons.

Biden told reporters at the start of his meeting with Ardern that he ‘will meet with the Congress on guns, I promise you,’ but the White House has acknowledged that winning new gun legislation will be uphill climb in an evenly divided Congress.

The U.S. president praised Ardern for her ‘galvanizing leadership’ on New Zealand’s efforts to curb the spread of extremism online, and said he wanted to hear more about the conversations in her country about the issue.”

Quite simply, leaders need to lead. Ardern took the bull by the horns and said enough is enough and introduced measures to add gun governance. Her courage should be commended as it is so unusual with our politicians to see such as they are too beholden to their funders and some staked out position which is counter to positive actions.

On gun governance, climate change, civil rights abuses, debt, etc. we need our leaders to act like parents and grandparents. Or, they could do their best to emulate folks like Ardern or Zelenskyy and ignore spineless politicians here in the US who are scared of their own shadow.

Two questions on gun deaths – a letter to the editor

The following is a letter I wrote to the editor of my local newspaper. It is necessarily brief but poses two questions that I want to ask certain politicians. Please feel free to adapt and use, if you like it.

Members of a political party are saying our gun death issues are not a gun problem, but a mental health one. Two questions. 1) If that is the only reason, then why does the US have more gun deaths than the next twenty-two first world nations combined? I presume these 22 countries have people with mental health issues as well.

2) If this is only a mental health issue, then why are members of this party against expanding Medicaid which provides mental health benefits? The number one cause of gun deaths in the US is suicides. Access to a weapon plays a role and saying it does not is naive and political. All it takes is one impulsive act and it is over.

As a result, any solution has to be multi-faceted to work including better gun governance and access to mental health services as only two of the components.

The deer must lead the way

I was watching one of those animal documentaries and it set a common belief on its head. Like me, many may have the belief the deer will follow where the stag leads. But, through observations, scientists have noted that is not always the case. The deer will feel threatened and move before the stag knows what happened. The stag will, in essence, follow the does and younger deer out of harm’s way.

That is the way it has to be now that elected officials are too scared to do anything. Of course, a change here and there occurs, but for the most part legislators are less inclined to make substantive changes that go against their funders’ wishes. As a result, collaboration is harder and even positive changes do not get passed, as one tribe cannot let the other take credit for political gain. Helping people is secondary to winning elections. It is that simple.

In the 2018 midterm US elections, the does rallied together in the Women’s March and ousted many stags from politics. It was an election that saw a large number of women get elected. Last week, in Australia, a change averse and industry helping government was swept out of office after nine years and three prime ministers. The does said we need to deal with climate change, child care and Medicare issues. And, by the way, integrity matters they said. It should be noted, not all the folks who got booted out were stags, as even does can be less than helpful as an elected official as we have seen here in the US.

It should be noted in 2019, New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, helped push through more restrictive gun laws after the nation was mourning the mass shooting deaths that just occurred. A female leader said acting to address this issue was of major importance. How refreshing. Ardern will be speaking at Harvard on the subject of gun control and will likely visit with the US president. Think of the contrast between her and certain elected officials here that are attending a conference held by the NRA, ironically in Texas, or parroting the usual and stale tripe that goes for debate in our country to prevent what most Americans want from happening.

Leaders look like Ardern. They look like Zelenskyy. They looked like Merkel and Mandela. They are imperfect, but they represent the people, all people of their countries. I mention Mandela as he was being pressured to swing the pendulum even more the way of the native South Africans after Apartheid. He did make sure their rights were promoted, but he also recognized the country as a whole needed to come together.

We need to listen to leaders like this. They are refreshing in contrast to our elected officials here who will actually go against the majority of people’s wishes to garner votes from a vocal minority. It is truly sad to see that occur. And, it should be noted how I sparingly use the word leader here in the US.

Letter to the editor – Australian election should be a wake up call for the US conservatives

I sent the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. It may not get printed, but I wanted others to see it and adapt and use it if they like it.

Seeing Australian voters sweep out conservatives after nine years and three prime ministers is telling. A large bloc of women voters grew tired of relative inaction on climate change, lack of assuring soundness of their Medicare and child care, and overall lack of integrity in its elected leaders.

Here in the states, my former Republican party is turning a blind eye to more action on climate change, better gun governance, growing fascism and shoring up the ACA and are attacking voting rights and civil rights. At the same time, overstated and even contrived issues are getting the air time to garner votes from their base.

As conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the “Republican Party is in decay.” I agree. We need a viable Conservative party, but what we have is not on the right path. The truth matters. And, a party that vilifies its truth tellers while glorifying its liars does not have the needed veritas to be considered seriously. I can disagree with the Democrats on policy, but with Republicans I find myself having to argue what is true. That is telling to this independent and former Republican and Democrat voter.